Published 20th November 2012
Level Crossings have been around ever since railways have operated and are 100% safe if used correctly. Today, people are busier than ever and often use headphones when walking, cycling and driving and using the 6500 level crossings on Network Rail’s (NR) routes in Britain today.
The protection offered from many fast moving and often heavy trains ranges from warning signs at footpath crossings to full barrier protection with audible and visual warnings. Every day these alert users and potentially save thousands of lives on one of the busiest rail networks in the world.
NR is closing crossings whenever possible by investing and working with national and local organisations, to ensure people use them correctly. They have even made a TV advert to give the campaign a higher profile to make sure people approaching rail footpath crossings treat these as they would when crossing a main road, even in quiet rural areas.
They hope the powerful message “See track, think train” will raise awareness that despite the quiet, rural setting, that paying attention to warning signs can save your life.
Martin Gallagher, head of level crossings for Network Rail said: “While fatalities at level crossings are at a low, there have been more pedestrians than motorists killed at crossings in recent years, and so we wanted to focus our campaign to connect with this audience. We know that it’s easy to get distracted or given the sleepy, rural surroundings not realise the risk at a crossing, but just as motorways cut through the countryside, so do railways.
This campaign, with a focus on pedestrian safety, follows Network Rail’s summer online video with rap artist Professor Green, asking people to remove their headphones at level crossings so they aren’t’ distracted from safety warnings.
NR has a £130m investment programme to improve level crossing safety including a closure programme which will see 750 crossings removed by April 2014. Some are being replaced by footbridges and others are having warning lights installed as an additional safety measure at footpath crossings
New technology including obstacle detection lasers and extra cost effective barriers to open-style crossings are being introduced and extra staffing has meant employing more than 100 new dedicated level crossing managers who wotk in conjunction with Community safety managers who work closely with local groups, councils and schools to raise awareness.
NR has released some statistics, and say that since 1 April 2012 there have been five fatalities at level crossings. Two pedestrians and one cyclist have lost their lives at footpath crossings. Motorists were killed at an automatic half barrier crossing and a user-worked crossing with telephone.
More people are killed at footpath crossings than any other type of crossing and since 2007 there have been 24 fatalities at footpath crossings with 46 in total.
NR has invested in another 10 camera enforcement vans which have automatic number recognition equipment to allow them to prosecute errant drivers.
More than 2,400 people have been caught and charged with breaking the law at level crossings by just three enforcement vans being used across London, the South East and Scotland.
Despite having a highly visible presence close to level crossings, British Transport Police officers, who operate the van, have caught and charged 2,452 people with various offences ranging from jumping the lights and driving through crossings as barriers come down, to striking barriers, careless and dangerous driving, and yellow box junction obstructions.
They are deployed at various level crossings across the routes where there are the highest levels of misuse.
Chief Superintendent (Territorial Policing) Miles Flood of British Transport Police said: "The level crossings vans in use are already proving their worth.
They are a useful additional tool for our officers in deterring as well as detecting motorists who continue to flout the law and misuse level crossings to save what may be only a few seconds and I welcome Network Rail’s further investment.
"Risking your own life and the lives of others at level crossings is just not worth it.”
Developing better and cost-effective ways of detecting and recording level crossings misuse.
Working with the Police and Crown Prosecution Service to improve the prosecution of offenders.